Earlier this year, we spoke with Federico Nardi, who runs the well-known boatyard Cantiere Navale Dell’Argentario in Porto Santo Stefano, Italy. We asked Federico to describe for us the work he did to restore Dorade in 1996-1997 after he helped arrange her purchase for Dorade’s new owner, Mr. Giuseppe Gazzoni-Frascara.
Dorade had previously been owned by Mike Douglas from 1984 to 1995 and homeported at Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. After the sale, Dorade was shipped to Italy and lowered into the waters of the Mediterranean for the first time, 27 years ago. Federico sent us this snapshot of the event.
Federico also put us in touch with photographer James Robinson Taylor, whose gallery of photos taken during and after the refit is now available on this site.
“When you restore a boat you have to draw a line,” said Federico “about what stays and what goes away. I remember the covering board, for example, was in two pieces on each side. We removed the covering boards to rebuild the deck, and after, we put back three original ones and one that was new. This was the concept, and it is always the challenge, when something is close to the line…Is it not so bad and we can leave it, or not so good and we must replace it? Plus deciding what to do considering there was a budget to manage for the owner.”
As Federico made clear, his yard was not commissioned to do a complete restoration of Dorade at that time. However, the work that he undertook was extensive.
“We replaced the deck, and we replaced a lot of deck beams,” he told us. “Plus planking in the lower part of the hull; the planking was all new from the garboard [bottom-most] plank and up, maybe nine to 12 planks.
“We removed and restored some of the bulkheads of the boat, and we overhauled the interior, rebuilding some of the cabinets.
“We dropped the lead keel, installed new keel bolts, and replaced some floors while we had that access.” Federico also located the engine in the bilge as requested by the owner— a “racing solution” he called it—putting the weight below the floorboards in the center of the boat.
Notably, Federico’s yard also replaced some of Dorade’s famous vents.
“When we restored the boat, we sailed some fantastic regattas,” he said. “The boat was in good condition and unbeatable at the time.”
Federico restored several Sparkman & Stephen classics during that period and said, “Olin Stephens came to the yard every year for a couple of weeks, and we managed to launch the 12-Metres Nyala and Vim with him at the yard. When we launched Dorade and did a sea trial, Olin was at the helm. Later, Olin also got to helm two more of his designs, Sonny and Bob Kat.” Olin was close to 90 years old at the time.
Federico added, “Olin’s only complaint about the work on Dorade was when he said, ‘This deck is not supposed to be in teak.’ It was originally made of Port Oreford Cedar, which is lighter than teak, but we can’t find it now except in the beams of old barns.”
After a few seasons, Dorade was sold to Dutchman Peter Frech in 1999, who campaigned the boat actively in the Med and at the America’s Cup Jubilee at Cowes, in 2001.
According to Federico, when the boat was sold, they did a survey on the boat and found some planking that had some rot, but it would be several years before Dorade’s next refit, after she returned to the United States in 2006.